George Caleb Bingham, who earned the sobriquet of “the Missouri artist,” evolved from a locally known portrait painter to an artist of national renown. The 246 letters in this volume illuminate the complex personality of a man actively involved in the political, social, and cultural life of nineteenth-century America – an eyewitness to westward expansion, a firsthand observed of river and rail commerce, and a participant in the Civil War.
The majority of the letters in this volume were written to Bingham’s close friend James S. Rollins, a wealthy mid-Missouri lawyer, politician, and father of the University of Missouri. In these letters, the artist-cum-politician describes his work on paintings and discusses political issues and candidates of the day—from the early years of the Whig Party in Missouri to the Unionists and Radicals of the Civil War period to the Democrats of the Reconstruction era. As a part of the friendship, Bingham sought and received Rollins’ advice and assistance when the artist struggled with family problems and financial hardships. Letters to family members reveal the intricacies of domestic ties between Bingham and his mother, siblings, and first two wives.
About the Author
George Caleb Bingham Born in Virginia, young Bingham moved with his family to Missouri in 1818. As an artist, he became known for his scenes of everyday frontier and river life in Missouri. He was also elected to the state legislature (1848) and appointed state treasurer (1862-1865) and adjutant general (1875-1876). The State Historical Society holds one of the largest collections of works by Bingham.
About the Editor
Lynn Wolf Gentzler received a B.S. and M.A. from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Gentzler held numerous positions with the Western Historical Manuscript Collection and the State Historical Society over more than 40 years, including assistant director of the Columbia Research Center and associate editor of the Missouri Historical Review.
Published by the State Historical Society of Missouri and Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc., 2011. 564 pages.